AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Room clearing in an urban environment is dangerous. Marines have trained extensively on this subject, applying lessons learned from tough battles in such places as Seoul during the Korean War, Hue in Vietnam, and most recently, Fallujah, Iraq. Now the Marine Corps wants to make sure its Iraqi Army brethren are skilled in close quarters battle as well.
To that end, Reconnaissance Marines with 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, have been training Iraqi commandos with the 7th Iraqi Army Division on fundamental infantry tactics during a month-long training evolution. As part of the course, the Recon Marines started honing the Iraqis’ room-clearing skills.
“I was very impressed with today,” said Sgt. Aaron Tenorio, a team leader with 1st Recon. “Some definitely grasp the concepts we’re teaching and others it takes a bit more time.”
Tenorio related their learning ability to a group of new Marines, explaining that some will excel and some will be average learners, while others will have a hard time.
The Marines started with the basics of room clearing by showing the commandos the proper way to clear a four-corner room. After instruction, pairs of Iraqi soldiers demonstrated what they learned while the Marines observed and critiqued each performance.
“They’re moving too fast,” Tenorio told the interpreter. “Their hands are bobbing up and down. He didn’t check this corner properly.”
The interpreter would relay the information in Arabic to the soldiers and they would start again, and again—and again. Even with the constant critiques from their instructors, the Iraqis showed improvement without frustration.
“They get this but with anything, practicing will help them remember it,” Tenorio said.
Each time the Iraqis separated off to clear a room, a critique was made. Sometimes the Marines would use hand gestures and repetitive words to help the Iraqis understand if the interpreter was busy with another group.
“The biggest problem we have here is the language barrier,” said Cpl. Kacey Butcher, a radio operator with 1st Recon.
Although the teachers and students spoke different languages, the commandos understood they needed to learn and the Marines understood they needed to teach.
“Overall, their discipline is good and their officers are locked-on,” Butcher said. “The more they work with Marines, the more disciplined they become.”
After two-man room clearing, they later advanced up to five-man room clearing and detainee handling.
“They’re doing very good for their first day doing room clearing,” Butcher said.
As the day progressed, the commandos who learned quickly began making slight critiques to their soldiers on things they need to work on or were doing wrong.
“These Marines are very well trained,” said Iraqi Army Lt. Ali Adelkhalef, 2nd platoon commander, 1st Battalion, 7th IA Division. “Everything we’ve learned is very useful and my soldiers have learned a lot.”
“I’ve learned a lot during this month and I want to teach my soldiers how to do this like the Marines,” said Iraqi Army Lance Cpl. Barra Ishmael Ahmed, a commando with 3rd platoon, 3rd Battalion, 7th IA Division.
The legacy of house-to-house fighting by Marines has been hard fought and earned through battles in history and in-depth training. Using what these commandos have learned and through continuous training, they may, one day, create their own legacy as an elite Iraqi Army unit.